As trusted business advisors QuickBooks ProAdvisors, especially those trained, certified and experienced in supporting QuickBooks Point-of-sale need to assist their client business owners and their staffs with implementation of 'best practices' for the various feature sets that QB-POS provides, if a business decides to implement any of those features. In this article we will focus on how you should support businesses that elect to use Customer Loyalty programs to insure they are properly implemented and operated on an on-going basis.
Customer Loyalty – Best Practices
A “Customer Loyalty” program is a method of rewarding your best customers. You can choose a variety of methods for those rewards, but each reward should trigger an additional sale. At its core, the goal of loyalty is to reward your best customers or get each customer to return to your store and shop one (or more) extra times. What customer loyalty shouldn’t be is a method of discounting. If all your loyalty program does is discount your merchandise, “lose” the program and just put your stuff on sale. You don’t need to expend the time or expense of a loyalty program to discount your merchandise.
Help your retailer make a plan.
Before starting any journey it’s a good idea to know where you are going. Once you know where you are going, you take a look at a map and plan out the route. Are you going sightseeing? Are you on a mission to get to your destination? Whatever the journey, making a plan is vital for overall success. Customer loyalty is no different – your retailers need a plan, and that means a written plan. Have them write out their goals. This does two things: helps them focus on what they are hoping for and gives you a benchmark to measure how they are doing.
Keep it simple.
The single biggest mistake I’ve seen regarding customer loyalty are complex, convoluted programs that no one understands or can explain. A few years back, an owner explained how he came up with his loyalty program. He took his top employees from several departments and gave them the customer loyalty initiative. The staff worked hard and came up with one of the most complicated customer loyalty plans I’ve ever seen. The best of intentions on everyone’s part do not necessarily make for a workable plan. The best loyalty plans can be explained in one sentence. However, if you absolutely have to have more than one sentence, it should never be more than three sentences. Keep it simple.
Set a Budget
You need a budget. Are your customers worth a dollar apiece? Many marketing firms can print 1,000 sign-up forms and stock cards for less than $1,000 dollars. In-house efforts may cost less per page but make sure your retailer has the time to get it done. Additional budget items include your in-store signage, a customer mailing, or birthday mailing. Don’t forget to budget for ongoing in-store signage and additional marketing to your “loyal” customers.
Involve the people who are going to sell it – POS clerks
Your biggest single factor for success or failure is the checkout clerks. Help your retailer get them on board with the program early. Their enthusiasm (or lack thereof) will determine the success (or failure) of sign ups.
Don’t give away the shop!
As previously mentioned, customer loyalty should never be a method of discounting and shouldn’t be the focus of any customer loyalty program. If it is, tell them to stop! Either recommend the retailer discontinue the program or start again. The goal is to reward your best customers and get everyone back in the store an extra time – not give money away at the register.
Promote the program
Whether the POS clerks promote the program at checkout, or they promote the program via “snail” mail, or they put it on their website or Facebook page, they must be doing it continually to ensure long- term success. Promoting the program is not a one-time endeavor; it must be a daily activity.
To Keycard or not to Keycard … that is the question
A few years back, everyone did keycards - today, not so much. Keycards (the little card with a bar code that sits on a key chain) were required when loyalty programs first got started but today, many companies are skipping the expense and just asking people for their names (or phone numbers) at checkout. If your retailer isn’t willing to carry a keycard, don’t ask their customers to carry them.
Mine that data
This brings me to my final point: What are you doing with the data you’ve accumulated over the years you’ve had your customer loyalty program? QuickBooks POS gives you the ability to track who your customers are and what they purchased, how much they paid for it, and how much and how often they’ve shopped with you. This is incredibly valuable information – if they use it.
Help your retailers review their results, at least annually, but preferably quarterly. This will allow you to highlight what changes need to be made and/or what is working well (or not). Help your retailers look at their data, compare it against their original plan, and help them make the needed adjustments for next year.
J. Lombardi and Will English
Author: Lombardi, J., Contessa of CounterPoint, Soft Intelligence, Inc. with Contributing Author: English, William S., President of English Management Solutions, Inc.